Leon Hall vs. Julian Edelman


Leon Hall’s matchup against Patriots’ receiver Julian Edelman will be the one to watch on Sunday night. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

You could immediately jump to the obvious saying A.J. Green versus Darrell Revis is obviously the matchup to watch.  But that matchup won’t necessarily decide the game like several others could.  The Bengals possess far to many weapons on offense to have to focus on one meaning Andy Dalton doesn’t have to throw to A.J. Green EVER if he isn’t open, unlikely as that is.  But the real reason I pick the matchup between Leon Hall and Julian Edelman is because of its potential impact on who wins and loses this game.  One that is likely to be a defensive battle as both teams possess great defenses.  And because the Patriots lack weapons on offense, Tom Brady is often left targeting only a few players: none more than Julian Edelman.  And it just so happens that one of the league’s best slot corners, Leon Hall, will be blanketing him.

Through four games this season, Edelman has been targeted a total of 36 times and has caught 26 of those targets; good for 10th and sixth in the league respectively.  As an aside, if A.J. Green had played in four games to date, he’d have the same number of targets, but two less catches.  I say this to highlight the importance of Edelman to Tom Brady.  He’s targeted so often because the Patriots lack receiving weapons that have earned Tom Brady’s trust.  Only Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have his trust historically.  This while the Patriots’ running attack seems to have left with LeGarrette Blount.  Because of this, Brady is often left to try and manufacture yards through the air on “dink and dunk” types of throws; his offensive line hasn’t given him time for much more.  All leading to Julian Edelman’s importance in the Patriots’ offense.

Edelman is no doubt a talented receiver, so much so that he filled the hole left by Wes Welker rather nicely last year.  Here’s a comparison of the two’s most previous years with the Patriots.

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But Edelman has yet to face a slot defender like Leon Hall.  The league may largely ignore Hall when it comes to “the best corners in the NFL,” but we Bengal fans understand the impact of Hall.  It’s surprising that Hall gets overlooked so often considering how much emphasis the league puts on slot receivers right now, but Hall goes about his business as do the Bengals as a whole.

When Leon Hall inevitably works against Julian Edelman in the slot this weekend, he’ll need to be ready for a guy who diagnoses plays quickly while also being aggressive in coverage.

If Hall plays the way we’ve come to expect, his effort could negate the impact of Edelman.  This isn’t to say Edelman won’t get catches, but Hall could certainly take away those “dink and dunk” first downs the Patriots love so much.  Hall is clearly talented to accomplish such a goal and if he does limit Edelman, the rest of the Bengals’ defense can focus on Rob Gronkowski and a handful of lackluster targets in an effort to limit Tom Brady’s impact.

This is the kind of effort the Bengals need from their stalwart defensive back.  This is the kind of effort that will be required of Leon Hall if the Bengals are to steal a victory in Foxborough. It’s the kind of effort they’ll need if they want to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the NFL.